20 of the Best Anti-Aging Serums for Your 40s - The Dermatology Review

20 of the Best Anti-Aging Serums for Your 40s

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

04.30.21DISCLAIMER

While your skin shows the first signs of aging as early as your 20s, it’s when you move into the 40s decade that more significant changes start to pop up. Whether you notice discoloration, loss of elasticity and volume, or fine lines and wrinkles, your 40s are a time to reevaluate how you’re taking care of your skin so you can tweak your skincare, so it’s more effective for this next phase of life.

One of the most vital products to either swap out or add to your regimen is a serum. Applied after cleansing and toning and before moisturizing, a serum is a step that should not be skipped or overlooked. As a serum’s molecular size is significantly smaller than a moisturizer or other skincare products, it can penetrate on a more profound level. This means the most potent, results-driven ingredients are delivered deep into your skin. With that said, this is why face serums are one of the most effective anti-aging treatments, regardless of how old you are. However, we’re here to talk specifically about the best serums to target the signs of aging skin in your 40s. 

The List 

Formulyst Intense Hydrating Serum, $59

Carrot & Stick the Repair Serum, $80

Formulyst Active Serum —  Vitamin B, C, E, Ferulic + Niacinamide, $80

Carrot & Stick The Defense Serum, $60

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid, $165

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum, $51

RoC Multi-Correxion Revive + Glow Daily Serum, $32.99

Retinol Youth Renewal Serum, $89

Allies of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brighten + Firm Serum, $88

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $6.80

Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate, $100

Strivectin Advanced Hydration Lactic Acid Nightly Retexturing Serum, $79

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, $62 

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $23.99

Avène A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum, $44

LilyAna Naturals Super C Serum, $28

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Stress Rescue Super Serum, $74

Olay Regenerist Max Tone Serum With Vitamin C, $32.99

Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum, $85

Cerave Skin Renewing Complex Vitamin C Serum, $19 

 

Your Skin in Your 40s

Your 40s is when you really begin to notice that your skin isn’t quite as firm as it used to be. This is because you’re dealing with the loss of collagen and elastin, which give the skin structure and tone, which can also lead to fine lines, wrinkles, and dullness. Depending on how you took care of your skin when you were younger, sun damage may be more pronounced as well. 

Many women experience a drier, rougher complexion — especially from their mid-to-late-40s since menopause is around the corner. They may be already going through perimenopause, or menopause transition, which begins several years before the real deal. These hormonal changes can also trigger adult acne, so anything can happen during this phase of life. 

Anti-Aging Lifestyle Tips in Your 40s — and Beyond

Along with using the best-targeted skincare ingredients to address the signs of 40s skin (more on that in a bit), it’s also essential that you’re considering your lifestyle habits. Even the best products in the world aren’t going to be effective if you’re not taking care of yourself in other ways. 

 

Protect Your Skin From the Sun

Daily sun protection is the golden rule for anti-aging and not looking older beyond your years. Numerous studies show that sun exposure is the number one cause of aging — how’s that for a bit of motivation to get serious? First and foremost, apply sunscreen (a minimum SPF of 30) to all exposed areas of skin; reapply throughout the day as needed. Try to avoid being outside in direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are the most dangerous. Accessorize with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to provide a little shade around your face. 

 

Avoid Tanning Beds

Don’t even think about crawling into a tanning bed — even if it’s to get a little color before vacation. Substantial research shows that these dangerous beds are linked to cancer and are actually more dangerous than laying in natural sunlight because the UVA rays penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin. There are numerous high-quality, natural self-tanning products (and professional services) on the market today, making it easier than ever to achieve a natural glow. 

 

Stop Smoking 

Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals that damage collagen and elastin. The nicotine in cigarettes causes the blood vessels to constrict in the skin’s outer layers, which impairs blood flow. Decreased blood flow means your skin isn’t getting as much oxygen or vital nutrients like vitamin A. Here’s some additional food for thought: The unhealthy, worn skin of a 40-year-old heavy smoker resembles that of a non-smoking 70-year-old.

 

Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet

What you put into your body will ultimately show up in your skin, so it’s vital that you’re eating a diet made up of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. While it’s easier said than done, limiting junk food, alcohol, and sugar can prevent a dull complexion, collagen loss, and breakouts. Furthermore, eating foods rich in antioxidants and probiotics (think yogurt, kefir, kale, and kombucha) can help clean up your gut, strengthen your immune system, and promote a glowing complexion from the inside out. Adopting these good habits now will help you with your overall health down the road. 

 

Get Enough Shuteye

It’s called beauty sleep for a reason. When you’re sleeping, your body goes into repair mode, so it’s essential to get enough shuteye every night — not just on the weekends. Nighttime is also when you’re going to want to use reparative and hydrating skincare products because your skin can effectively utilize the active ingredients. Furthermore, studies suggest that lack of sleep is associated with more fine lines, wrinkles, and droopy corners of the mouth, so it’s no surprise that not getting enough shuteye can exacerbate the signs of aging in your 40s. 

What to Look for in a Serum in Your 40s

When treating skin in your 40s, look for a serum with a combination of the following ingredients: hyaluronic acid, peptides, niacinamide (B3), retinoids (but not if you’re already using a vitamin A derivative in a cream), and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Together, these ingredients will protect against free radicals (think UV rays, pollution, cigarette smoke), stimulate collagen production, and improve elasticity and hydration levels. 

You’ll want to invest in two different formulas: a protective one with antioxidants and brightening agents during the day and something more hydrating that stimulates collagen and elastin production at night.  

 

The goal of an anti-aging serum for 40s skin is to: 

  • Stimulate collagen production
  • Fade existing fine lines and wrinkles
  • Prevent (or clear up) a blotchy complexion
  • Fade dark spots and signs of discoloration
  • Firm and tone
  • Prevent and treat rough, dry skin

The Best Anti-Aging Serums for Your 40s

Formulyst Intense Hydrating Serum, $59
Think of Formulyst’s Hydrating Serum as a long, cool drink of water for your face. Lightweight, this serum immediately sinks into the skin and is loaded with good-for-you ingredients. For example, antioxidants and moisture magnets like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, and provitamin B5, and a microbiome repair complex work to plump up fine lines and leave skin smooth and supple.

Carrot & Stick the Repair Serum, $80
Niacinamide is the hero ingredient in this ingredient-packed formula, so it’s perfect for lightening any discoloration that pops up in your 40s. Additionally, it visibly lifts, tightens, and firms while defending against damaging free radicals. Hyaluronic acid and vitamin E deliver an instant boost of hydration, and a blend of synthesized growth factors encourages elasticity, cell turnover, and nutrient absorption to support revitalization. Seven plant-based neuropeptides enhance the skin’s structural integrity from the inside out, promoting smoother, more resilient-looking skin. Finally, soothing and brightening botanicals, including chamomile, licorice root, and green tea, impart an ageless glow. 

Formulyst Active Serum —  Vitamin B, C, E, Ferulic + Niacinamide, $80
This formulation shields your skin from environmental assaults that show signs of aging in your 40s. One drop contains a powerful antioxidant blend of antioxidants and vitamins, with the highest concentration of pure vitamin C, B, and E, ferulic acid, and niacinamide. It leaves your skin looking brighter, healthier, and more youthful.

Carrot & Stick The Defense Serum, $60
This antioxidant-packed revitalizing serum helps promote collagen production and visibly brighten skin. Three distinct vitamin C derivatives work together to fight visible free radical damage and enhance cellular longevity. Regular use transforms dull, uneven-looking skin into the radiant skin you had in your 20s and 30s.

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid, $165
Skinceuticals has several best-selling serums, but this patented daytime formula one is considered the gold standard, according to skincare professionals. Along with visibly improving the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, loss of tone, and discoloration, it’s clinically proven to reduce oxidative damage from environmental aggressors by up to 41%. Once absorbed into the skin, this vitamin C serum keeps working for a minimum of 72 hours.

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum, $51
Perfect for travel or convenient home use, these small yet potent capsules deliver the perfect amount of serum every time. Formulated for nighttime use, each dose is packed with retinol and peptides to stimulate collagen synthesis, ceramides to strengthen the skin’s barrier, and a blend of oils to deeply hydrate. You’ll wake up to a more refreshed, hydrated, and glowing complexion as soon as the next day, but it also works progressively to fade the signs of aging in your 40s. 

RoC Multi-Correxion Revive + Glow Daily Serum, $32.99
This popular drugstore buy from RoC claims that their formula brightens and tightens better than the best C serums in the luxury skincare market. Clinical tests show that this lightweight serum delivers a brighter, tighter, and more even skin tone in just four weeks, thanks to a 10% active vitamin C blend. Even elasticity and texture are improved within a week, so it’s perfect for targeting loss of tone that appears in your 40s.

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum, $89
This power-packed serum is formulated with two forms of retinol—one that works quickly and another that’s time-released—to soften fine lines and wrinkles and even out the skin tone while stimulating collagen production. A retinol booster enhances the results, while hyaluronic acid minimizes dryness and promotes a from-within glow. 

Allies of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brighten + Firm Serum, $88
Choosing a favorite product from AOS is like trying to pick a favorite child — impossible. So, let’s leave it up to actress January Jones as this potent 20% vitamin C and 2% citrus cell complex infused serum is one of her favorites from the brand. The C in this formula has a cumulative effect, so it’s suitable for all skin types. An antioxidant complex of glutathione and three potent antioxidants brightens, firms, and provides protection against environmental aggressors immediately and over time. 

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $6.80
Suppose dryness is one of your primary concerns in your 40s. In that case, you can’t go wrong with a hyaluronic acid serum — especially if it’s formulated with a variety of low-, medium-, and high-molecular-weight HA, such as this version from The Ordinary. It also contains a cutting-edge HA crosspolymer at a concentration of 2% and vitamin B5 for optimal, deep-level hydration. While this budget buy is effective, sister brand NIOD offers a more advanced serum (Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex, $35) developed with 15 forms of HA.

Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate, $100
This unique serum features Japanese shiso, which has been shown to prevent the degradation of hyaluronic acid — another ingredient in this formula — to deeply hydrate while improving the skin’s elasticity. Glycerin and an epidermal hydration filler encourage the skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid to improve dullness while smoothing the appearance of fine lines and an uneven texture. 

Strivectin Advanced Hydration Lactic Acid Nightly Retexturing Serum, $79
As the name suggests, this formula is one of the best serums for targeting dry, lackluster skin because it exfoliates, one of the keys to achieving a supple, plump complexion. Alpha-hydroxy acids, vegan lactic acid, blue cypress oil, and an advanced youth-boosting Nonapeptide boost the skin’s natural moisturizing factors while improving skin tone and texture. 

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, $62
If you feel as though your 40s skin is changing from one day to the next, you’ll love this high-tech serum that adjusts to suit the needs of anyone who wears it. It targets, treats, and prevents specific skin issues, whether that’s loss of elasticity, fine lines, and wrinkles, dryness, dullness, breakouts, and hyperpigmentation — basically anything that can pop up in your 40s. The secret sauce is a blend of brightening botanicals, vitamin C, peptides, and salicylic acid. 

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $23.99
This popular serum for 40s, aging skin is formulated with Neutrogena’s 17% Hydration Complex made up of high and low weight hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and trehalose to attract moisture and seal it in. All skin types will feel weightlessly hydrated for a full 24 hours. 

Avène A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum, $44
This lightweight, fast-absorbing serum promises to defend the skin against the most challenging environmental stressors. Formulated with popular antioxidant ingredients vitamin C and E, it provides superior antioxidant protection while improving the skin’s appearance. It works to smooth the skin’s texture while reducing the appearance of fine lines and brightening the complexion.

LilyAna Naturals Super C Serum, $28
This cult-favorite natural (and vegan) beauty brand formulated the secret sauce for glowing skin with 85% natural — and naturally derived — ingredients. Along with 10% vitamin C, plant stem cells, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, coenzyme Q10, rose flower water, aloe vera juice, and a seaweed complex work together to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, hydrate, and improve elasticity. Additionally, this serum calms inflammation, brightens, restores, and neutralizes free radicals. In other words, it’s a one-stop shop for 40s skin.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Stress Rescue Super Serum, $74
At some point or another, we all have stressed skin, and let’s face it, 2020 put us to the test. Along with soothing niacinamide, ashwagandha, and goli fruit extracts protect against environmental stressors (think cigarettes, sun exposure, stress, pollution) and damaging blue light from electronics. 

Olay Regenerist Max Tone Serum With Vitamin C, $32.99
You’ll find vitamin B3 in a lot of Olay products (they call it “their unicorn”) because it increases cell turnover, promotes a vibrant complexion, and deeply hydrates. Along with niacinamide, this power-packed serum is formulated with brightening vitamin C and a proprietary Skin Energizing Complex to make skin look and feel smoother and more radiant and youthful. 

Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum, $85
Full disclosure: This is not a retinol serum for rookie retinol users. This professional strength formula consists of a 5% retinoid ester blend, 1% liposomal-encapsulated retinol, and blue-green algae to provide antioxidant protection. The addition of encapsulated CoQ10 works to improve damaged or aging skin; and if you’re worried about irritation due to the strength, cactus extract, Hawaiian white honey, bisabolol, and ginger calm and soothe.

Cerave Skin Renewing Complex Vitamin C Serum, $19
Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive, this potent yet gentle serum is formulated with 10% pure vitamin C to brighten the complexion visibly. Additionally, it contains three essential ceramides and vitamin B5 to restore the skin’s protective barrier and deeply hydrate. 

Serums in Your 40s: The Bottom Line

While your skin shows the first signs of aging as early as your 20s, it’s when you move into the 40s decade that more significant changes start to pop up. Whether you notice discoloration, loss of elasticity and volume, or fine lines and wrinkles, your 40s are a time to reevaluate how you’re taking care of your skin so you can tweak your skincare, so it’s more effective for this next phase of life. 

One of the most vital products to either swap out or add to your regimen is a serum. Since its molecular size is significantly smaller than a moisturizer or other skincare products, it can penetrate on a more profound level. This means the most potent, results-driven ingredients are delivered deep into your skin. With that said, this is why face serums are one of the most effective anti-aging treatments, regardless of how old you are. 

When it comes to choosing a serum for your 40s, look for a formula with a combination of the following ingredients: hyaluronic acid, peptides, niacinamide (B3), retinoids (but not if you’re already using a vitamin A derivative in a cream), and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Together, these ingredients will protect against free radicals (think UV rays, pollution, cigarette smoke), stimulate collagen production and improve elasticity and hydration levels. 

For the best results, you’ll want to invest in two different formulas: a protective one with antioxidants and brightening agents during the day and something more hydrating that stimulates collagen and elastin production at night.  

References:
Photoaging: What You Need to Know,” Skincancer.org, January 2019. 
Is it True That Smoking Causes Wrinkles?, Mayoclinic.org. 
Smoking and Its Effects on the Skin,” Derm Net NZ, November 2016. 
Study Reveals the Face of Sleep Deprivation,” August 2013.

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